Linda Patterson is reinventing herself this year, shifting from a 30-year career as a CMDS JK teacher to the new STEAM-influenced Early Childhood Discovery Lab.
When asked what kind of things the children will study in the new weekly Encore class, Patterson responded as any good scientist would, with a series of questions. “What is science, or a scientist? What is engineering, or an engineer? What do they do? How do they gather their information?”
The course will include a rotation of science and nature, engineering and construction and tinker space where the kids can explore freely.
The Early Childhood Discovery Lab is one part of CMDS’ strategy to raise students who are engaged in science, engineering and the broader STEAM Initiative. EC students will learn what it means to have a separate science and engineering class. They’ll also learn relevant vocabulary, how to respect equipment and the confidence to ask questions.
The newly designed Discovery Lab features child-sized lab tables (built by CMDS grandparent Jim Hover), balance ball chairs and various activity centers. The light table and light cube offer kids the chance to mix colors and use magnets. A Solar System is available for exploration, and an “Animal Kingdom” now tops the room’s existing loft.
Goal Is to Instill Love – Not Fear – of Science
“Most people have that natural curiosity already and want to know about their physical world,” Patterson said. “They also love to build, design and create. So we want to introduce them to science and have them learn to love it.”
Encouraging the kids to ask questions, gather information, form hypotheses, experiment, share and collaborate is all part of the curriculum strategy.
“We want to design and experiment and then test what we’ve done, make improvements, learn that it’s OK for something to flop and then learn how to do that better,” she said. “I think it will be a room they’ll love to come to.”
The new role is a natural transition for Patterson, who loved teaching about science and nature in her own JK classroom. As a little girl, she even led a nature club in her front yard.
She also is accustomed to young children. She understands that, between ages 2 and 6, lies a wide variance of ability and interest.
“I’m just going to meet each child where they are and let them take off and fly with it,” Patterson said. “There’s going to be something in science, nature, engineering or construction that’s going to pique their interest. And I’m excited to help them find it.”